Monday, May 12, 2008

‘Fur’ Sure

Design by Chris Benz

To say that Fur Fashion Week ‘aint’ what it used to be is an understatement. But then again, what is? Having covered the fur market for Harper’s Bazaar decades ago, I can remember jam packed fur weeks that easily spanned one week, were comprised of ambitious runway shows (many of which took place in elegant hotel ballrooms), and were attended by editors-in-chief like Anna Wintour. That was then and this is now. But still, notwithstanding Global Warming and the downward turn of the economy, furs are still going strong: the customer (men and women alike) continues to embrace fur and recent runways (for fall winter 2008) which were filled with innovative and creative ways to use fur, were a testament to the designers’ continued interest and their ongoing desire to view pelts as, well, just ‘another’ fabric.

This year, fur fashion week, organized by FICA (Fur Information Council of America, will take place over the next two days, May 13 – 14, during which time there will be 17 presentations, including those by Michael Kors, Bill Blass, Ralph Rucci, Isaac Mizrahi, Peter Som, Zandra Rhodes, Zac Posen, Angel Sanchez, Carmen Mark Valvo, Kati Stern for Venexiana. (Other fur houses to show: Cassin, Orlando New York, Saga Furs, Helen Yarmak, Byte).

To kick things off and to name the winners of the first annual Emerging Fur Designer of The Year Award, I, along with other members of the press, designers, and manufacturers, were invited to a lovely champagne luncheon at Sapa, 43 West 24th Street. (Speaking of Global Warming, it was so cool and damp on this late spring day, that the idea of looking at furs, or even wearing one, did not seem so far fetched. And in fact, one of my colleagues wore a short vintage astrakan coat with a fur collar to this luncheon and just recently, I’ve spotted many of this city’s best dressed social figures, wearing little fur pieces over their cocktail dresses and evening gowns to brave off the chill as they arrived at soignée events and galas).

Winner Chris Benz with FICA Director Keith Kaplan

There were opening remarks from Keith Kaplan, the FICA executive director, a short video which introduced the 12 nominated designers (96 editors received ballots and voted, factoring in creativity, wearability, and salability), and still another highlighting furs shown at designers’ shows. At the end, two winners were named: one for ‘Accessories’ (the honor went to Doo.Ri who was not present), and one for ‘Full Garment’ (the winner was Chris Benz who was there to pick up his award).

'Future of Fashion' winners: From Left, Paulina Bui, Sara Shahbazi, and Alisha Moten

In addition, there were three dress forms featuring the innovative fur designs of three young designers representing the ‘future of fashion’ (Sara Shahbazi and Paulina Bui from Parsons and Aisha Moten from Virginia Commonwealth). I was particularly impressed with Ms. Shahbazi, (she graduates this month), who handed me a very professional booklet which was filled with black and white photos (which she took) of her ultra modern, luxurious yet streetwise fall/winter 2009 collection, which is “based on her fascination with Richard Serra’s sculptors”. She explains that she was “inspired by the modern lines and curved hems of Richard Serra’s sculptors”, and to that end, she concentrated on an urban and neutral palette of shades of gray, silver, teal blue, and black.

Sara Shahbazi with her blue iris coat

Her work emphasizes fabric mixes and rich textures through the use of fine wool, cashmere, sequins, knitted stitches, leather, and of course, fur. In fact, two standouts in her collection which speak volumes about her talents, are the black lamb leather cropped jacket with over the shoulder curved panels and quilted detail, and the blue iris coat with mixed sheared and long hair curved pieces which was on display at the FICA luncheon. Mark my words; Sara is a name to watch.

Sara Shahbazi's black lamb leather cropped jacket

In the meanwhile, (while I’m on the topic of furs) it’s ‘that’ time of year again. If you are searching for the best all inclusive fur storage company, one that offers a wide variety of services, expert leather cleaning and conditioning, top notch customer service, and will help you to restyle or transform any of your treasured pieces, look no further than Anne Dee Goldin’s GoldinStyle, For more information, call 212 239 0512 or email,

-Marilyn Kirschner


  1. Oh my, some of these furs are just extraordinary.. I want, I want, I want!!!

    I don't know if I can wait until one or more ends up at Cowit furs... ( my fur mecca..I admit I have a very non politically correct addiction!) BUT, since I adore Cowit and they are THE BEST for used furs in NYC, I will just have to control myself and wait...

    at least until

  2. nice